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Eight die at nursing home that had poor record with state regulators

17 September 2017

Five more later died, with the initial assessment blaming the heat in the facility after a tree knocked over during Hurricane Irma fell onto a transformer which powered the facility's air conditioning system.

Early Wednesday, police arrived at the 152-bed Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Fla., to find three residents had died and numerous others were in a state of distress, local officials stated.

With all of Florida's major utility companies working overtime to restore power to millions of customers in the midst of one of the largest disaster blackouts in USA history, the nursing home staff had to know that despite their requests, power wasn't likely to be restored immediately - especially given that hospitals and other critical infrastructure were higher on the priority list. Temperatures in Florida have been in the 80s since the hurricane passed.

"Our investigation has revealed that it was extremely hot on the second floor of the facility", said Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez.

Memorial Healthcare Systems has established a hotline for families of the patients who were taken to its facilities for care. Several phone calls went to them, and they were all ignored. A total of nearly 4.5 million Florida Power & Light customers have been affected by the storm, with about 1 million getting service restored, mostly by automated devices. Also, all nursing homes are supposed to let the power company know that they are critical facilities that are supposed to get top priority when the power goes out.

In the days before Irma hit, FPL warned residents to prepare to be without power for a few weeks - FPL yesterday promised customers on the East Coast that power would be restored by Sunday, but Broward officials are now asking FPL to focus on restoring power to hospitals and nursing homes as fast as possible.

Later in the evening, Irma became a Category 2 storm and made landfall on mainland Florida. So as a precaution we're moving everybody over so they'll be more comfortable.

"I wish that all nursing homes would do the right thing and take care of people the way they would their own loved ones", Mitchell says.

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Before the hurricane smashed into the U.S. mainland Sunday, it struck northern Caribbean islands, leaving at least 44 people dead, authorities said.

Sanchez said police have opened a criminal investigation into the deaths.

"We even had some family members ride the hurricane out in our communities", he said.

Florida residents are still returning from shelters to their households to count the cost of Irma's destruction.

The Los Angeles Times reports at least 45 deaths have been confirmed.

With millions of people in Florida still lacking power, officials are urging those who need a break from the heat to visit cooling centers and drink water.

"I don't know if my sister is living", Mitchell said.

The rehab center's administrator, Jorge Carballo, said the home "is cooperating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome".

Eight die at nursing home that had poor record with state regulators